“It’s Ukraine” is a web portal about different aspects of life in Ukraine. A few hours after English-Team published the article on how Google purchased the Ukrainian start-up Viewdle, it was republished on “It’s Ukraine!” with a ping back to our website. That’s how I found “It’s Ukraine!” and today English-Team is talking to Olena Savenko, the owner of this ambitious web project.
English-Team: Olena, I found your site through the ping back you placed on my site. Now, how exactly did you come across my article about the Google/Viewdle deal? Olena Savenko: Thank you, Torsten for your interview invitation. Usually every morning I look through Ukrainian news to find some interesting information to post on the “It’s Ukraine!” website and re-post it in my “It’s Ukraine!” group on Facebook. I heard about the Google/Viewdle deal, so I decided to see who’s posting about it in English, and what the real story is. That’s how I came across the English-Team Blog and your article. English-Team: Very interesting. I’m pleased to hear you found our Google/Viewdle article and re-posted it. Now, could you please tell us a
bit more about “It’s Ukraine!”. How and when did you conceptualize the idea and how did you come up with the name? Olena Savenko: It all started in the late nineties when I met my best friend. He was from the US but loved Ukraine very much and decided to stay and live here. Every day I saw what kind of problems he was facing, what kind of questions he had and what kind of information he needed, being a foreigner in Ukraine. I’ve been also meeting and talking to people from different countries, who’ve been visiting Ukraine, who’ve been interested in Ukraine, its people and its culture. So, I thought, maybe I should start a website where I would be able to share all the tips and information I know about my country to help not only my friends, but other people and make their life a bit easier. I started to work on my idea in 2005, when I came up with the name bestofukraine.com. I had no clue how to make websites but my desire was so strong, that I just decided to give it a try. I found a special program for my PC, installed it, saved several websites to use them as a learning material and tried to understand HTML code. A month later I created the first HTML version of bestofukraine.com Just a couple of years ago I created BestOfUkraine page on Facebook to be able to interact more with my visitors. After some time I understood that I also need a place where I could write not only about the best things, but everything and anything, all aspects of life in Ukraine, good or bad. So many times I’ve heard from my friends the phrase “It’s Ukraine!”, when they were happy or when they were disappointed and frustrated. Finally, after I was told another crazy story about a Ukrainian adventures by one of my friends, I thought, it’s time to start some type of a blog to share such stories and news. The name for it was obvious – itsukraine.com and I was lucky to get it! This year, I’ve also started It’s Ukraine! group on Facebook, which is growing rapidly. We’ve already got a great community of people from Ukraine and other countries, locals, ex-pats or just travelers, but all of them somehow and in some way are tied to Ukraine. I like my Ukrainian projects and enjoy developing them, because they give me a chance to meet new interesting and wonderful people, make new friends and learn new things. English-Team: Your English is very good. Where and how did you acquire it? Olena Savenko: Thank you. I was always interested in the English language. I started to study it at school, then university, I was reading books in English, but even after my graduation I wasn’t satisfied with my English. I had quite a large vocabulary, knew some grammar, but the main thing is practice, and I was lacking it. Everything improved fast after I met my American friend. He didn’t speak any Ukrainian or Russian, so we had to communicate only in English. He had a great ability to explain words and phrases I didn’t know in other words, his pronunciation was clear and easy to understand. I was doing lots of translations for him, first in a written form and then later simultaneous interpretation at meetings. It was a lot of fun when he was teaching me slang and dialect words and phrases, for example, wouldja, couldja, gonna, gotta, wanna, gimme, gotcha, goofy, dough, etc. As a result, I’ve created yet another hobby website myenglishforum.com. English-Team: How often do you communicate in English nowadays and with whom? Olena Savenko: Nowadays I have many English speaking friends, so I communicate in English very often. Because of my Travel Ukraine websites people write to me with different questions and requests, and these are also mainly in English. English-Team: Where do you get the material (news articles) for “It’s Ukraine!”? Olena Savenko: Everywhere. Online and offline. I just keep my eyes open for any interesting news about Ukraine. My friends are a great source of information as well, because they share their Ukrainian stories and adventures with me. Also, I live in Ukraine and see everything from the inside. So, when something strikes me, I write about it. English-Team: Do you emphasize any topics over others? For example, do you like business more than politics and tourism more than statistics? Also, some of the articles on your site contain a few rather sad facts about Ukraine such as your countries high AIDS and death rate. What kind of image do you think such reports might create in your readers’ minds? Olena Savenko: Actually not, at least I am trying not to emphasize some topics over others. There are of course times when several days in a row I find interesting news on one topic and I post it. But anyway I have it as a rule to keep a balance and post in different categories, like travel, politics, science & technologies, business & finances and others. I agree that some of the articles on It’s Ukraine! don’t show Ukraine in a positive way, but this is our life. We cannot describe only positive things and close our eyes
to negative facts. I think, bringing attention to problems might help to solve them and improve things in future. So, on It’s Ukraine! I want to show a complete picture, without beautification, and that was my first intent when I started this website. I hope, my readers appreciate this fact and keep their minds open. Every country has got its bad and good features. English-Team: What do you think needs to be done in order for ordinary Ukrainian citizens to improve their situation and live better lives? Olena Savenko: This is a difficult question and the answer might take a book. To make it short, Ukraine needs a government that thinks of its people and does things for people, and those improvements should be done not only before the elections but all the time. Everybody knows the main problems in Ukraine, which are corruption, heavy burden of taxes, ridiculous salaries of medical professionals, teachers and other government employees, difficult climate for entrepreneurs and investors, etc. Changes must be comprehensive and radical and include all systems of government and administration. English-Team: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Every country or nation has the government it deserves.’ Olena Savenko: I mainly disagree with it. It is great when in some countries people have the power to change the government. In this case it is their responsibility to make the right choice. But more often in many countries elections are just dirty political games, where people are simply used as a tool to achieve someone’s aims. In this case it can be very hard to change something, as well as to see the real picture. Talking about the statement “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite”, I’ve read that it belongs to Joseph de Maistre, a French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer and diplomat. One of the translations of Maistre’s aphorism is “Every nation has the government which it is fit for” and they think it may best capture what Maistre really meant. English-Team: So who would you say is responsible for the economic and social problems Ukraine is facing, the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian politicians or the Ukrainian people? Olena Savenko: I would say that the government and politicians are responsible for creating such a climate for people to be able to build a stable and comfortable economic and social environment. English-Team: Would you consider Ukraine’s politicians and its government part of the Ukrainian nation and the Ukrainian people? In other words, is there anything Ukraine’s politicians and Ukraine’s people have in common in addition to the language they speak? Olena Savenko: Ideally, Ukraine’s politicians and its government should be a part of the Ukrainian nation and the Ukrainian people, and, of course, to some extent, they are, but the question is how big and strong that connection is. It’ll be interesting to see the results of Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine on the 28th of October, 2012. I hope the political and economic situation in Ukraine will improve, so the country will attract investments, encourage new business startups and future development of already existing businesses. I am open and ready to discuss any new insights, opportunities, ideas and proposals for cooperation and the further development of my projects about Ukraine. You can contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org It’s Ukraine! group on FB https://www.facebook.com/groups/391526840883542/